Omicron outbreak strains Australian domestic politics
AUSTRALIA: Australia recorded another record surge in COVID-19 infections on Tuesday as an outbreak of the highly infectious Omicron variant disrupted reopening of the economy, while state leaders argued over domestic border controls.
The Omicron variant, which medical experts say is more transmissible but less virulent than previous strains, began to spread in Australia just as the country got underway with plans to reopen for good after nearly two years of stop-start lockdowns.
With the resumption of rising case numbers – despite a vaccination rate of more than 90% for Australians aged over 16 – the country’s state leaders have brought back some containment measures like mandatory mask-wearing and QR code check-ins at public venues.
The rising case numbers have also led to mandatory self-isolation for thousands of workers in the hospitality, entertainment and airline sectors – the sectors worst hit by lockdowns – resulting in cancelled theatre shows, closed restaurants and postponed flights.
The outbreak has also fuelled a resumption of fractious domestic politics which defined much of the pandemic as some states resist calls to remove internal border controls.
New South Wales (NSW), home to Sydney and a third of Australia’s 25 million population, called on neighbouring Queensland to shift from mandatory clinical testing at the point of origin to on-the-spot rapid antigen testing for people travelling there. – THE INDIAN EXPRESS